Circle of prayer

Storm clouds looming.

I was out for a walk on a beautiful calm reflective day, when the water was like crystal. However in the distance storm clouds were moving, and soon were overhead bringing a deluge of rain. The contrast between the dark menacing clouds and the softness of the light on the water was dramatic.

I think this is a metaphor for our lives- where there can be so much beauty and light, but there are also threatening things on the horizon- pressures and worries about finance, health and the wellbeing of others. We always seem to be walking a line between light and darkness, good and evil.

When I was mulling on this, I remembered the old celtic form of prayer, encircling prayers, where we pray for a person or situation to be encircled in the love and care of God. It seems such a powerful way of praying in a life where there is so many disturbing and unsettling news.

There are so many verses in the bible that are prayers for protection against danger.

‘ Have mercy on me O God, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings till danger has passed’ Psalm 57:1

‘ The Lord will fight for you- you need only be still.’ Exodus 14:4

Just knowing that on difficult days, God is protecting us, and even fighting on our behalf is such an encouragement. We need to trust, and stay close to Jesus.

Circle me Lord, when the storm clouds roll in, Lord Jesus, keep protection within, and danger afar, when life feels disturbing, keep peace within, and dissension away. Lord Jesus, encircle us in your light, and love and beauty. Holy spirit, may we find shelter in the storm, encircle us in your care and keeping till the morning light breaks, and all is calm and tranquil. Then may we give thanks, and seek to go on our path of doing your will once again, with trust and confidence, Amen.

Loch Lomond saints!

Resting place of St Kentigerna?

Sometimes we travel to discover new cultures and ways of being, but we neglect what can be closest to us.

A number of years ago, we had a church pilgrimage to Luss to see the celtic cross in the glebe there, and to remember St Kessog. St Kessog came from Ireland, and founded a monastery on the island of Inchtavannach near Luss. He introduced Christianity in the area, and died in 520AD. It is quite moving to realise this very early Christian influence in the area, and for me it adds to the feeling of being a sacred place. Loch Lomond feels like a place of retreat and of solace, a place with a history of prayer.

Today, I visited the island of Inchcailloch. To my shame, I had never been there before. Of the 22 islands in Loch lomond, it is the island nearest Balmaha. You can walk around it, it has a beach and ruined farm. But it also has an old graveyard and the remains of a church, where St Kentigerna is meant to gave been buried in 733AD. Inchcailloch means island of old women, or of nuns. It is certainly at the very least an ancient Christian site. It is a very beautiful and peaceful place.

My visit reminded me of the celtic Christian appreciation of nature, of the seasons and the tides, the moon and the sun. There is a deep appreciation of creation, of thin places and thresholds, of the importance of pilgrimage and blessing, even in the mundane things of daily life. The landscape around loch lomond, of hills and islands and quiet beaches and glens speaks of God’s creativity and glory.

In Psalm 19 it says ‘ the heavens declares the the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims the work of His hands’. In many places on this earth, that is particularly felt.

The words of the ancient celtic blessing seems so appropriate:

May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind always be at your back May the sun shine warm upon your face May the rain fall soft upon your fields, And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Gracious God, thankyou for the early apostles and followers of Jesus, who took the gospel message to new lands, people like St Ninian and St Mungo, St Kessog and St Kentigerna. We are grateful for their resolution, even when travelling through hostile and difficult landscapes. May we remember their stories, and remember that so many places have sacred histories. Holy spirit, on our pilgrimage though life, may we be attentive to these places, and the very presence of God, and be filled with humility and praise, Amen.